Flag Burning Not Illegal in US; Gambhir Has Shared a Fake Quote

Flag burning is legal in the US under the SC ruling, which is a constitutionally protected speech.

3 min read
Flag burning is legal in the US under the SC ruling that it is a constitutionally protected speech.
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Former cricketer and BJP MP Gautam Gambhir on Wednesday, 4 September, shared a post on a purported remark of former United States Defense Secretary James Mattis, regarding burning of the US flag.

“Forget Jail: If you burn the American flag, you'll spend two years in the military. I promise you, you'll be cured of the desire to burn a flag ever again. You'll be waving it; saluting it or you'll be lying under it," the post read.

Gambhir's tweet, which also suggested that the same action must be taken against flag burners in India, had over four thousand retweets and 27,000 likes at the time when this report was filed.

Screen grab of the post.
Screen grab of the post.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @GautamGambhir)

An archived version of the post can be seen here.


There are no reports on Mattis suggesting a charge of two years in the military for flag burning. Flag burning is also legal in the US under the Supreme Court ruling, which is a constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment.


A simple Google image reverse search led us to several meme sites carrying the same post, but without the suggestion, ‘This should be implemented in our country too,’ as seen in Gambhir’s tweet.

Screen grab of the meme.
Screen grab of the meme.
(Photo Courtesy: BALLMEMES)

Using the key words ‘James Mattis burning US flag’, we came across another similar meme, but with a different picture of Mattis.

Suggesting that Mattis never made such a remark, the meme said, 'Not an official quote. Just an awesome idea featuring legendary Marine, and now Secretary of Defense, Mattis.

Screen grab of the post.
Screen grab of the post.
(Photo Courtesy: MEME)

We did not come across any report that quotes Mattis as saying that flag burners in the US will two years in the military.

But Is It Legal to Desecrate the US Flag?

While there have been several attempts in the history of the US to ban flag desecration, the Supreme Court in 1989 ruled that the government could not stop citizens from desecrating the nation's flag and that it is a protected form of free speech under the constitution.

Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump had endorsed Republicans' proposal calling for a ban on burning the American flag.

In 2016, Trump had also said that anyone found burning the American flag should face consequences, which includes loss of citizenship or a year in jail.

Both Trump’s remarks show that there is not current law mandating burning the US flag as illegal.

In short, Gambhir endorsed a post which was incorrect on two grounds. Mattis did not make such a remark and the law protects flag burning in the US.

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